Art & Commerce: Lessons Learned

The freelance life can make you smarter about life
After five years, freelancing has taught me many things, far beyond just how to run a successful business:
Keep dating until you’re officially engaged.
Several people call you consistently. But unless it’s in writing that your clients will pay you until you die, never stop making new contacts.
People like happy people.
A tale of two freelance art directors. The best of times–one was upbeat and actually liked coming up with ideas. He didn’t retch at one writer’s pronouncement that she could “think visually.” He watched his work pile up because everyone wanted to work with him. Or should I say, no one wanted to work with the one who complained about his chair and drew every frame like a prisoner crossing off days on a calendar. That would have been the worst of times.
You’re not the center of the universe.
They like you, but keeping you working is not their raison d’tre. Therefore, when you call asking for freelance work like it’s a dollar they owe you, it would be considered what a Playboy Playmate might call a “turn-off.”
When someone wants you, they find you.
“We thought of you, but couldn’t find the paper (a.k.a. your rƒsumƒ attached to 47 samples) with your phone number.” As Kojak would say, “Crocker, check every phone booth in Brooklyn.” That’s what someone who wants you is willing to do.
People want what’s “new.”
In ads, “new” means improved. “New” is often in big horsy type on the front of the package and said 500 times in a 15-second spot. So, don’t take it personally if you find out they’re trying out a new person for new thinking on that good ol’ account you knew better than the staffers.
Playing hard to get can make you hard to want.
It’s good to let clients know you are busy and working with other prestigious companies. However, if you always brag that you’re so busy, they’ll think you’re too busy to give time to their assignment and call someone else.
Actions speak louder than words.
“We really want to use you.” If they really wanted to, they really would have by now.
People are not stupid.
I freelanced at an agency where one of the other day players was so busy acting as though she was working, she had no time to actually do any work. Rumor has it the senior account executive questioned her hours and said that “Ms. Streep” would never work there again as long as he was breathing.
There are too many nice people, why bother with the ones who aren’t?
Your former agency’s secretary is now a book-looker–if she was arrogant back then, she’s worse now. Then there’s the headhunter who believes that one word from him and “You’ll never eat bagels in this town again.” And let’s not forget the peer/creative director who used to have tantrums in the hallway if someone didn’t say, “Bless you,” after she sneezed. There are plenty of agencies and a new recruiter hanging out a shingle every day. Find them. It’s worth the bother. K